J. McWhirter Reviews Jerusalem Crucified (M. Kinzer)


Mark S. Kinzer. Jerusalem Crucified, Jerusalem Risen: The Resurrected Messiah, the Jewish People, and the Land of Promise. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2018. ISBN: 978-1-5326-5337-7. Pp. 325. $39. Paperback.

Reviews of the Enoch Seminar 2020.07.04

Jocelyn McWhirter
Albion College

In Jerusalem Crucified, Jerusalem Risen, Mark Kinzer presents a meticulous argument about the indispensable role of the Jewish people, the land of Israel, and Jerusalem in the good news about Jesus as portrayed in Luke and Acts. Kinzer’s treatment is not only historical and exegetical but also theological. He offers a peek at Luke and Acts through the lens of Messianic Judaism, locating himself within a religious community in which the Jewish people and gentile believers in Jesus are seen “as estranged covenantal partners, each of which needs the other to be whole” (p. 9).

This perspective, somewhat rare among New Testament scholars whose background is overwhelmingly non-Jewish and Christian, accounts for Kinzer’s studied avoidance of such words as “Christian” and “Christianity” as well as his consistent substitution of the terms ekkl­ēsia and euangelion for “church” and “gospel.” Like other scholars of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity, he regards such terms as anachronistic for the first century.[1] He also recognizes that, in the popular imagination, it applies exclusively to non-Jewish believers in Jesus (p. 20). Kinzer’s Messianic Jewish lens may also explain why he can summon evidence for arguments that the euangelion centers not so much on the salvation of individuals as on the renewal and restoration of the Jewish people in the land of Israel upon the Messiah’s return to Jerusalem. Kinzer draws most of that evidence from Acts, read in light of the Gospel of Luke. This might come as a surprise, since Luke-Acts is widely considered to have been written by a gentile for a gentile audience in order to assure them that they are indeed legitimate heirs to God’s promises. Yet a look through Kinzer’s exegetical lens brings a different picture into focus.

Kinzer focuses especially on Acts because of its portrayal of the euangelion and the ekklēsia. In Acts, the apostles proclaim the euangelion primarily to Jews as good news for Jews, thus building the ekklēsia as a Jewish movement that includes gentile proselytes. While Kinzer assumes nothing about the ethnicity of the author and/or editor of Luke and Acts, he does subscribe to the assessment offered long ago by Jacob Jervell, namely, that “Luke” thinks like a “Christian Jew” and uses categories typical of “Jewish Christianity.” This perspective on the authorship of Luke-Acts fits well with Kinzer’s theory about the work’s historical context and theological agenda, which he sees firmly centered within a Jewish framework.

Regarding the relationship between Luke and Acts, Kinzer assumes only that the final edition of Luke was composed by the author of Acts, although he certainly deems impressive the exegetical results obtained by those scholars who see “Luke-Acts” as a literary unit.  He thus admits the possibility that Acts may have been written not in conjunction with Luke but as many as three decades later, perhaps by an author who then added “numerous consciously crafted literary anticipations of material that will appear in the later book [of Acts]” (p. 11). Specifically, Kinzer entertains the proposals offered by such scholars as Joseph Tyson; namely “that canonical Luke and Acts were composed no later than the second decade of the second century, and that a primary aim of these books was to preserve the Jewish character of the euangelion in the face of an anti-Jewish reading of the Pauline letters” (p. 235). It matters little to Kinzer, however, whether these literary anticipations were composed presciently or in hindsight. It matters only that Acts was composed and Luke edited in order to “preserve the prophetic Jewish character of both the ekklēsia and the euangelion of the resurrected Messiah” (p. 232). Whether a literary unit or separate works written and edited in stages, the two books can be read as an ensemble responding to Jewish concerns. With this assumption in mind, he encourages his readers to evaluate his arguments on their own merits. “Either my reading of the text makes sense, or it does not” (p. 9).

Kinzer summarizes his reading in a thesis stated at the beginning of Chapter 1:

Jesus died and was raised as the messianic representative of the Jewish people, and . . . these events in his life foreshadow and order the course of Jewish history. Jesus’ suffering and death constitute a proleptic participation in the intensified exile of the Jewish people that will begin a generation later when the Romans destroy Jerusalem. This advance participation by the Messiah imparts to the coming exile a redemptive character, so that the dissolution of Jewish national existence centered in Jerusalem functions not only as punishment but also as a source of purification and corporate renewal. In corresponding fashion, Jesus’ resurrection serves as the pledge and efficient cause of Jerusalem’s ultimate redemption. (pp. 21–22)

As a first step in demonstrating his thesis, Kinzer argues that the author/editor of Luke and Acts “juxtaposes the death of Jesus and the fall of Jerusalem in such a way as to make each an interpretation of the other.” He begins with Jesus’ predictions of Jerusalem’s fall in Luke 13:31–35; 19:41–44; 21:20–24; 23:27–31 which play “a special role in telegraphing the author’s message” (p. 38). Kinzer concedes their claim that the fall was brought about by Jerusalem’s rejection of God’s prophets, culminating in the crucifixion of the Messiah. He then adds that the saying in Luke 23:31 depicts Jesus’ death as more than just a trigger for Jerusalem’s destruction. Jesus, “the green wood,” “innocent of the violent insurrection,” suffers the punishment soon to fall on the rebels (p. 39). Jesus frames his execution as a portent and participation in the judgment of the holy city.

Other patterns in Luke and Acts indicate a close connection between Jesus’ resurrection and an anticipated restoration of Jerusalem. The resurrection fulfills God’s promises to David; the narrative, although it ends in Rome, keeps circling back to Jerusalem; the final scene in Acts 28 lacks closure—these details affirm God’s covenant faithfulness. Although the events of 70 CE inaugurated an extended period of Jewish exile from Jerusalem, God “will restore the kingdom to Israel” when the Messiah comes in the same way he went into heaven (Acts 1:6, 11).

In the next three chapters, Kinzer expands on his argument by focusing on the temple, the Jewish people, and the Torah. He aims to show that the euangelion does not render them obsolete. He begins Chapter 2 with a lengthy overview of the temple’s theological significance as expressed in the writings of the Hebrew Bible, the literature of Second Temple Judaism, and the New Testament apart from Luke and Acts. Particularly important are themes of God’s presence in the temple. If, as the Gospel of John proclaims, the Messiah Jesus is God abiding among God’s people, then Jesus “is the ultimate temple” (p. 126). And if God’s glory typically leaves the temple before its destruction and returns with the restoration of Israel, then God’s glory will return with the Messiah Jesus (Acts 1:11). The restoration of the Israel therefore consists in the gathering of the Jewish people, along with believing gentiles, to Jerusalem where together they will welcome their king in the words of Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 13:35; 19:39). “In this scenario,” writes Kinzer, “the future temple is . . . [Jesus’] disciples and the redeemed people of Israel” in “the land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount” (p. 122).

But who are “the redeemed people of Israel”? More precisely, “Does failure to believe in Jesus and join the community of his disciples result in the exclusion of Jews from the people of Israel?” (p. 129). Kinzer takes up this question in Chapter 3. He points out that, according to Acts, the apostles consistently address their Jewish audience as “brothers,” “heirs of the biblical tradition and sharers in a common covenant” (p. 132). It is this “communal reality” that gentiles, addressed “as aggregated individuals or families,” are invited to join (p. 133). While Jewish unbelief provokes God’s judgment, nothing indicates that it excludes them from God’s covenant. Passages that seem to suggest otherwise are subject to alternative interpretations.

Prominent among such passages are Peter’s speech in Acts 3:12–26 and Paul’s consistent rejection by Jews and subsequent turning to gentiles. Kinzer points out that Jewish rejection of Peter and Paul is by no means universal. Many do in fact receive the euangelion. In general, however, Jewish leaders and their communities do not. They have thereby delayed the fulfillment of God’s promises until, as Peter explains, their repentance and return inaugurate “the time of universal restoration” with the sending of God’s appointed Messiah (Acts 3:20–21).

Peter also warns of the heavy price to be paid by those who do not listen to Jesus, whom God “raised up” as prophesied by Moses in Deut 18:15–20. They “will be utterly rooted out of the people” (Lev 23:29 in Acts 3:23). According to Kinzer, this does not imply exclusion from the covenant. On the basis of traditional Jewish understandings of the Hebrew verb kārat, he concludes that to be “utterly rooted out” is to endure eventual, not immediate, consequences such as suffering in this world or judgment in the next. He points out that Luke and Acts hold out hope for Pharisees, especially in the parable of the Two Sons equally loved by their father and the benign portrayal of Gamaliel, whose grandson would lead the Sanhedrin in ca. 80–115 (Luke 15:11–32; Acts 5:13–49). God’s covenant people still play a role in God’s plan.

Meanwhile, the apostles proselytize among gentiles. God opens the way by giving Peter a dream that permits association with gentiles (Acts 10). James keeps it open by affirming, on the basis of commandments pertaining to resident aliens, that male gentile converts are not bound to the covenant of circumcision (Acts 15; cf. Lev 17:10–16; 18:24–30). Nowhere in Acts, however, does Torah-obedience become obsolete for Jews. Kinzer spends Chapter 4 showing that “the Torah loses none of its commanding force.” Instead, “the new era inaugurated by Jesus . . . radicalizes and recenters the Torah’s demands” (p. 166). References to Jewish Torah obedience pepper Luke’s infancy narrative, and Jesus’ teachings summon Jews to repentance and strict Torah obedience (Luke 5:32; 10:25–37; 15:1–32; 16:19–31; 18:18–23; 19:1–10). Jesus observes the Sabbath while reinterpreting regulations pertaining to the Sabbath (Luke 13:1–17). Jesus’ disciples and witnesses are consistently described as “righteous” and “devout” (e.g. Luke 1:6; 2:25; 23:50), praying and offering sacrifice in the temple (e.g. Luke 1:11, 13; 2:21–24; 37; Acts 1:14; 3:1; 18:18; 21:23–24), and circumcising Jewish males (Luke 2:22; Acts 16:1–3). As God’s covenant people, Jews maintain a particular calling that gentiles—even gentile disciples of Israel’s Messiah—do not share.

They also continue to await “the time of universal restoration.” This creates a final task for Kinzer: “to inquire about ‘the whole purpose/plan of God’ as manifest in Luke and Acts, and regarding the shape of its outworking in the later history of the ekklēsia and the Jewish people” (p. 229). Kinzer completes the task in three brief chapters. In Chapter 5, he laments the fact that the ekklēsia came to devalue Jerusalem, the land of Israel, and God’s enduring covenants with the Jewish people. “The eschatological vision of the ekklēsia became so spiritualized and individualized,” he says, “that the New Testament hope for a transformed earth peopled by resurrected nations seemed alien and threatening” (p. 236). The result is a “fractured euangelion” in which most Jews do not receive the Messiah and those gentiles who do receive him do not receive the traditions of Israel so valued in the New Testament.

Regardless, Kinzer—now reflecting on history from a theological perspective—sees the God of history at work. Although the Zionist movement was not particularly religious, Kinzer regards it as “an integral yet imperfect expression of the divine [plan] at work in human history.” By no means a Christian dispensationalist, he nevertheless expects the return of Jews to the land of Israel to be followed by the repentance that will “open the way for the full restoration of Israel” as described in Luke and Acts along with prophecies like Ezekiel 36 (p. 254). Messianic Judaism and Zionism, he says, serve as “intimations of [Jerusalem’s] eschatological glory . . . now present among us” (p. 270). He ends Chapter 6 by analyzing the imperfections of the modern Jewish state and prescribing appropriate responses by disciples of Jesus (e.g., Christians and Messianic Jews should not blindly support the Jewish state and dismiss Palestinian rights).

In the seventh and final chapter, Kinzer reflects on the potential of his thesis for theological integration. His “Jesus-centered vision of Israel” relates the death and resurrection of the Messiah to the Jewish people and their land (p. 273). It enables a Jewish reading of Paul’s letters; a soteriology that is less “spiritualized and individualized” and more broadly focused on the redemption of Israel; an “ecclesial Zionism” that incorporates Jesus’ “ethical and spiritual priorities,” especially his admonition to live as a neighbor (pp. 168, 286); and a missiology that seeks to integrate the “fractured euangelion” in the interests of “universal restoration.” “If my thesis is sound,” he writes, “it should bring greater coherence not only to ecclesial teaching directly related to the Jewish people and the land, but to the full scope of ecclesial theological reflection” (p. 271).

Is Kinzer’s thesis sound? Does his reading of Luke and Acts make sense? His argument certainly hangs together and coheres with his Messianic Jewish perspective, one that deserves the attention of New Testament scholars. It makes sense within the exegetical principles that guide his reading of Luke and Acts—in particular, his attention to the theological agendas of the biblical authors and editors; his consideration of the context and order of the biblical canon; the perspective of his religious tradition; his view of the Bible as an account of God’s activity in human history, both in the time of its authors and editors and in the following ages up to the present day. Kinzer has rigorously applied these exegetical principles while spinning out his argument, starting with God’s promises and their fulfillment as expressed in the first century and ending with reflections on possible signs of progress towards renewal and restoration in our day.

With respect to historical-literary analysis of Luke and Acts proper, some aspects of his argument make more sense than others. Kinzer is at his best when pointing out how the narrative stresses the significance of Jerusalem, the covenantal status of the Jewish people, and the continued relevance of Torah as interpreted by Israel’s Messiah, Jesus. His Messianic Jewish lens—formed by his own participation in the covenants, reverence for Torah, and love of Jerusalem—enables him to discern details that go unrecognized by most readers of Luke and Acts. Those details include the centrality of Jerusalem, Jesus’ devotion to the holy city, a reiterated hope in God’s promised restoration, the lack of any clear statement that nullifies God’s covenants or releases Jews from the obligation of Torah obedience, and the frequent depictions of reverence and adherence to Torah on the part of Jesus and his witnesses. Chapters 3 and 4 in particular warrant close examination by anyone willing to read Luke and Acts from the perspective of a Jewish Jesus-follower.

I am less convinced by Kinzer’s central thesis: that in his death and resurrection, the Jesus of Luke and Acts anticipates and participates in Jerusalem’s destruction and restoration with its exile and return of the Jewish people. Kinzer’s narrow focus on four sayings of Jesus that by his reckoning “display lucidly the author’s particular theological emphasis” causes him to ignore many more passages in Luke and Acts that depict not proleptic participation but rather a strictly sequential relationship between Jesus’ death and resurrection on the one hand and Jerusalem’s destruction and restoration on the other. Such passages refer to God’s “plan” in terms of destiny, determination, and necessity,  marked by “times and periods,” “generations,” and “hours” that “follow” one after the other (Luke 2:34; 21:9, 24; 22:22, 53; Acts 1:7; 2:23; 4:28; 5:38; 13:36; 17:21; 20:27). Ancient prophets foretold the crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 9:22, 44; 18:31–33; 20:17; 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:25–28) who himself foretells the coming destruction of the temple (Luke 13:31–35; 19:41–44; 21:20–24; 23:27–31).

Kinzer also neglects several other gospel sayings of Jesus that anticipate the emphasis in Acts on the Jewish rejection that leads to Jerusalem’s doom. That emphasis is underscored in discourses by Peter and Stephen which suggest that the rejection happens in two stages: first, when Jerusalem’s leaders murder the Messiah; and second, when they murder his witnesses (Acts 3:17–21; 7:17–43). Jesus anticipates the scenario as early as Luke 11:29­–32, adjuring Galileans and Jerusalemites—those who had encountered Jesus during his lifetime and were due to suffer in the revolt—to repent lest they perish. The theme develops in five more sayings: a warning to lawyers whose ancestors murdered the prophets, followed immediately by the parable of the Barren Fig Tree that gets a second chance to produce fruit; the parable of the Ten Pounds in which the citizens of the nobleman’s country are slaughtered for not supporting his promotion to royal power; the parable of the Great Dinner whose invitations go twice to townspeople before they are extended into the countryside; and the parable of the Wicked Tenants who kill the landlord’s “beloved son” only to be destroyed and dispossessed (Luke 11:47–51; 13:1–9; 14:15–24; 19:11–27; 20:9–19).

Kinzer never refers to these patterns and sayings. By focusing narrowly on Acts plus select passages from Luke, he has skirted the arguments to be made from Luke-Acts conceived as a coherent whole. His overall theory makes sense to the extent that one can accept his reconstruction of the pro-Jewish authorship of Acts and subsequent addition of anticipatory material to Luke, thereby excluding significant narrative patterns in both books. One would also have to agree with his interpretation of Luke 23:31, the cryptic verse on which much of his argument hangs. Does it mean that Jesus, the “green wood,” “takes his place as the innocent representative” of the people soon to suffer for their “violent insurrection” (p. 39)? Or does it indicate that one murder will necessarily be followed by thousands more? Readers may find themselves questioning Kinzer on these fundamental points. Regardless, his perspective is worth understanding, and his conclusions about Jerusalem, the Jewish people, and the Torah as portrayed in Luke and Acts deserve serious consideration.


[1] See, for example, Ralph J. Korner, The Origin and Meaning of Ekklēsia in the Early Jesus Movement, Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity 98 (Leiden: Brill, 2017); Anders Runesson, “Ekklesia.” Bible Odyssey (cited 17 Jun 2017). https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/ask-a-scholar/ekklesia.

Jocelyn McWhirter

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